Monday, July 17, 2017

Distaff Doctor?

"It's obvious that Chibnall has only cast a woman as The Doctor so that he and his straight mates can whack off over the character the way gay fans used to cream their pants over the likes of David Tennant and Matt Smith," opines Dr Who 'superfan' Tim Rubbles on his blog, as he addresses the whole issue of new showrunner Chris Chibnall's casting of a woman in the series' title role.  "It's a clear act of homophobia - everyone knows that The Doctor is a gay icon - just look at the number of gay guys who have produced the programme - and this is cruel attempt to deprive the gay community of one of their top masturbatory fantasies.  If they think that they can fob us off with some kind of sex object male companion, then they are sorely misguided."  Other fans disagree with Rubbles' analysis, claiming that The Doctor's gender change is all part of a gay plot.  "It's those poofters at the BBC attempting to subvert normal sexuality again," says rival 'Whovian' Pete Pogg in his video blog, recorded live in his bedsit.  "By turning the character into a woman, they've destroyed another good straight male role model for young men everywhere.  What next, a gay Doctor?  Or a bisexual Doctor who swings between Captain Jack and Billie Piper on a nightly basis? Is it any wonder that so many guys are going gay theses days? "

To return to reality, I was asked today what I thought about the latest casting of The Doctor.  'Totally underwhelmed' was my only response.  I have several concerns about this whole gender change for Dr Who.  Most importantly, this whole 'The Doctor should regenerate into woman' campaign has primarily been advanced by people who are actually not fans of the programme and are interested in pursuing their own agendas, rather than considering what is right for the future of the show.  The fact s that there has never been any demand on the part of fandom for such a development.  They don't care that such 'novelty' casting could undermine not only the fan base, but also the whole dynamic and purpose of the programme, so long as they have achieved their goals.  But once you make a change of this sort, you are in danger of making the programme a vehicle for crudely propagandising a single issue, which, in the long run, can only be damaging.  Plus, I've always had an issue with the idea that you can advance the cause of gender equality by co-opting established male characters and arbitrarily making them female.  (Yes, I know that we've established within the programme's own universe that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate, but the fact is that this is only a recent re-writing of the show's mythology and, like it or not, The doctor is firmly established as a male character).  When you do this, surely you are admitting defeat and saying that you can only create powerful female role models by co-opting existing male ones, that it is too difficult to establish new female characters who can capture the public imagination?

My biggest worry is the fact that this casting reveals a degree of desperation on the part of the BBC and incoming production team.  It gives the impression that they think that all they need to do revive falling viewing figures is to go in for some novelty casting, that this will be enough to stir public interest in the show.  Which, if true, betrays a complete failure to grasp why the programme has been struggling for the past few series.  Whilst things like erratic scheduling don't help, making it difficult to build a stable audience, the biggest problem has been the very patchy standard of the writing during Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner.  Now, I'm not one of the 'STEVEN MOFFAT IS SHIT!' brigade, who constantly bellow their bilge on social media, the fact is that during his time at the helm scripts have been hugely variable.  At times writers seem to have had problems in even telling a coherent stories, let alone advancing logical plots.  Character consistency has also been poor. An excessive reliance on time paradoxes and the like to resolve stories also hasn't helped: after a while the novelty wears off and it just seems like lazy story telling.

The reality is that whoever plays the part, regardless of gender, is going to be left high and dry if the writing doesn't improve.  need proof?  Just look at Peter Capaldi's time in role: an excellent actor who, in his first two seasons. was ill served by scripts that were poorly constructed, lacking in logic and which denied him any chance to develop the character properly.  The marked improvement in writing during his final season came too late and couldn't arrest the downward slide in viewing figures.  Sadly, based on his previous work for Who and Torchwood, I'm not confident that Chris Chibnall is the man to give us the needed improvement in the script department.  Just changing The Doctor's gender won't be enough to distract from these problems and I fear that a combination of casting and poor writing will result in the next series being an unmitigated disaster.  I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm not, I'd like to get in first and bellow 'CHRIS CHIBNALL IS SHIT!'

I know, I know, I'm obviously a middle aged, middle class misogynist because I don't welcome The Doctor's change of gender.  At least, that's the reaction others trying to articulate similar views have received. Well, tough.  I'm sorry if I have an opinion different to yours - tough, I'm entitled to it. 



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